Looking for something to do this month? Here is a list of festivals and other events happening in and around Tokyo during the month of December. Most of the information came from the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) website. Their list covers all of Japan; this list has been fine-tuned and only includes nearby events that I believe any non-Japanese can access and enjoy. They are listed in chronological order.
1/1-2 Takasaki Daruma Ichi, First fair of Daruma. Many open air stalls selling Daruma, food, drinks, etc. are set up & various performances – including Japanese dance, Taiko drumming, and Shamisen are held during the festival period from 10:00-16:00, along Eki-mae Street. Access: JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Takasaki Station (West Exit).
1/1-4 Yasukuni Jinja Nento Gyoji, Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. New Year’s ceremonies and entertainment. Key events: 1/1 Japanese traditional martial arts demonstration from 9:00am, Classical Japanese dance from 13:30, Lion Dance from 14:00, Okinawan drum performance from 14:30. 1/2 Japanese traditional martial arts demonstration from 10am, Tsugaru Shamisen concert from 15:00. 1/3 Yumi-hajime (the first practice of the year of Japanese archery) from 10am. Access: Tokyo Metro Tozai, Hanzomon Line or Tori Shinjuku Subway Line to Kudanshita Sta., exit 1, then walk 5 minutes.
1/2 Kokyo Ippan Sanga, Imperial Palace, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. New Year’s Congratulatory Visit to Imperial Palace, by people who are allowed to pass the Nijubashi Bridge on this special occasion. The Imperial Family are scheduled to appear on the balcony to the homage of people. 10:10 / 11:00 / 11:50 / 13:30 /14:20. Access: Chiyoda Line to Nijubashi-Mae Station and then walk 3 minutes.
1/2-3 Hojojutsu Jitsuen, Hamarikyu Garden, Chuo Ward, Tokyo. Demonstration of Japanese traditional falconry. Admission to the garden is 300 yen. If it rains, the event will be canceled. 11:00 / 14:00. Access: 1). Toei Oedo Subway Line to Shiodome Station or Tsukijishijo Station, then walk 7 minutes. 2). JR Yamanote Line to Shimbashi Station and then walk 12 minutes. 3). Ginza Line or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Shimbashi Staiton and then walk 12 minutes.
1/3 Hatsu Daishi / Daruma Ichi, Kawagoe Daishi Temple & others, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture. First fair of Daruma. Many open-air stalls selling daruma are set up in and around the temple. From sunrise to sunset. Access: Hon-Kawagoe / Kawagoeshi / Kawagoe Stations, then walk 20 minutes.
1/5 Joma-Shinji, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Archery ritual in traditional attire. From 10:00. Access: JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura Station (East Exit). Then walk 10 minutes.
1/6 Dezome-shiki, a New Year’s event presented by the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Brigade at the Tokyo Big Sight, Koto-ku. A mass display of high-tech fire-fighting equipment with amazing acrobatics demonstrated by Hikeshi, firefighters of Edo Firemanship Preservation Association. 9:00am – 11:50am. Access (1) The Yurikamome Line from Shimbashi Sta. to Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon Sta., and then walk 3 min (2) The Tokyo Rinkai Kosoku Railway Rinkai Line from Shin-Kiba Sta. to Kokusai-Tenjijo Sta., and then walk 7 min.
2nd Week of January to Early March, Atami Baien Ume Matsuri, Atami City, Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture – Japanese Plum/Apricot Festival. There are about 470 Japanese plum/apricot trees of 60 species blooming in the garden. Various entertainment is scheduled during the festival. Access: (1) JR Ito Line to Kinomiya Sta., and then walk 10 min. (2) JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Atami Sta. From there, take bus (for Ainohara-Danchi or Baien) to Baien Bus Stop (15 min.)
1/8 Hashigonori (traditional acrobatics performed at the top of a six meter tall ladder), Ikegami Honmonji Temple, Ota Ward, Tokyo. From 13:00 – 14:30. *Afterward, from 14:30 – 15:30, consider joining the free guided tour (in English) of the temple compound. To participate, sign-up at the blue tent before 14:30. Access: Asakusa Line to Nishi-Magome Station, then walk 12 minutes. Or, Tokyu Ikegami Line to Ikegami Station, then walk 10 minutes. For more information: email@example.com
1/8 Kagami-biraki-shiki, traditional rice cake cutting ceremony on the first training session day of the New Year at the Nippon Budokan (Martial Arts Hall), Chiyoda-ku. Key events: 12:45 Ceremony of Yoroi Kizome (armor wearing), 13:05 ceremony of Kagami-biraki, 13:30 demonstration of various Budo (martial arts), 15:25 serving of shiruko (sweet red bean soup containing small pieces of rice cake).
1/8 Momote-shiki, a traditional Japanese archery ritual to commemorate Seijin-no-hi (Coming-of-Age Day) in the precincts of Meiji Shrine, Shibuya-ku. The archery is held in front of Homotsuden (treasure house) from 12:00. Access (1) The JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Sta., and then walk 5 min (2) The Chiyoda or Fukutoshin Subway Line to Meiji-Jingumae Sta. (C 03, F 15), and then walk 5 min.
1/9 Yokozuna Dezuiri, Sumo ring-entering ceremony is demonstrated by three Yokozuna grand champions in front of the main hall of Meiji Shrine, Shibuya-ku, from around 3pm. Access (1) The JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Sta., and then walk 5 min (2) The Chiyoda or Fukutoshin Subway Line to Meiji-Jingumae Sta. (C 03, F 15), and then walk 5 min.
1/9 Maebashi Hatsuichi Matsuri, First Fair for Daruma, along Honmachi-dori, Hachimangu Shrine, etc., Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture. Main events: 10:00-11:15 Otakiage (ceremony of burning old Daruma), 10:00-21:30 Open-air stalls are set up along Honmachi-dori, 10:30-11:30 Mikoshi (portable shrine) parade from shrine to Karimiya (mikoshi ‘resting place’). Access: JR Joetsu Shinkansen to Takasaki Station. Then take JR Ryomo Line to Maebashi Station (North Exit), then walk 10 minutes.
1/10 Hatsu Konpira, the first fair of the year at Kotohiragu Shrine, Minato-ku. A parade of Shichifukujin (the seven Gods of Good Fortune) is held on Sando Street twice at 11:00 & 14:00. Sato Kagura (shinto dance with music) will occur at 10:30, 13:00, & 16:00. Access: The Ginza Subway Line to Toranomon Sta. (G 07) (Exit 2), and then walk 1 min.
1/12 Ome Daruma Ichi, a fair selling Dharma dolls, in Ome, on the outskirts of Tokyo, from 13:00 – 20:00. About 300 open-air stalls selling Daruma (Dharma dolls), food, potted plants and the like are set up along the Kyu-Ome-Kaido street. Access: The JR Ome Line to Ome Sta.
1/12 Manaita-biraki, the New Year’s ceremony to dedicate a carp as an offering to Hoonji Temple, Taito- ku. The head master of Shijo-ryu school of Japanese culinary arts, dressed in traditional attire, demonstrates the art of skillfully slicing a large carp on a board, using only a knife and chopsticks, not touching the fish with his hands, from 10:00 – 12:00. Access: The Ginza Subway Line to Inaricho Sta. (G 17), and then walk 5 min.
1/13 Obisha-sai, an archery ritual at Kuzukaya Goryo Shrine, Shinjuku-ku, from 10:00. Access: The Seibu Shinjuku Line to Arai Yakushi-mae Sta. (North Exit), and then walk 10 min. Or, Toei Oedo Subway Line to Ochiai Minami-Nagasaki Station, then walk 11 minutes.
1/13-14 Daikoku Matsuri, Kanda Myojin Shrine, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. On 13th, from 10:00, there will be a purification ritual (people coming of age pour icy water over themselves). On 14th, from 12:00, Hocho-shiki will take place (rite or traditional art of skillfully slicing a large carp using a Japanese knife and chopsticks, without touching the fish with hands). Access: 5 minute walk from Ochanomizu Station or Shin-Ochanomizu Station. 7 minute walk from Akihabara Station.
1/14 Kodokan Kagami-biraki-shiki, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Traditional rice cake cutting ceremony on the first training session of the New Year. Demonstrations of Judo practice sessions from 10am. Access: Toei Mita or Oedo Line to Kasuga Station, then walk 1 minute. Or, Marunouchi or Namboku Line to Korakuen Station, then walk 3 minutes.
1/14 Kanchu Suiyoku, Teppozu Inari Shrine, Chuo Ward, Tokyo. From 11:00. Midwinter bathing, a purification ceremony. Men wearing only loincloths are purified first by priest’s prayer and then again when they enter into the icy water in a big tank on the grounds of the shrine. Access: 1). HIbiya Line or JR Keiko Line to Hatchobori Station, and then walk 5 minutes. 2). Yurakucho Line to Shintomichi Station and then walk 10 minutes.
1/14-28 O-Zumo Hatsu Basho, the first Grand Sumo Tournament of the year at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall, Sumida-ku. Dohyo-iri (the ring-entering ceremony) by Yokozuna (the grand champions) takes place around 15:40 daily. Then the main bouts by Maku-uchi (upper-rank Sumo wrestlers) start. Advance tickets are sold at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall, Ticket Pia, convenience stores, etc. Unreserved-seat tickets are sold on the day at the Kokugikan Hall from 7:45am every day during the tournament period, on a first-come, first-served basis. The number of the tickets is limited to 350 daily. Access: The JR Sobu Line or the Toei Oedo Subway Line to Ryogoku Sta. (E 12), and then walk 5 min.
1/15 Otariya, Futaarayama Shrine & other locations, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture. Festival featuring a performance of Dengaku-mai (Shinto dance with music) from 17:00-17:30 & a parade of mikoshi through the city from 17:30-19:00. Access: To the shrine: JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line to Utsunomiya Station (West Exit). From there, take bus to Babacho Futaarayama Jinjamae Bus Stop (5 minutes).
1/15-16 Setagaya Boro Ichi (Flea Market) on Boro Ichi-dori Street, Setagaya-ku, features many open-air stalls selling foods, clothes, potted plants, antiques, etc. from 9:00-20:00 on both days. On the 15th from 11:00 – a Daikan Gyoretsu (parade of people in Edo-era dress) starts from Setagaya Daikanyashiki. Access (1) Take a bus for Kamimachi or Seijo-Gakuen from Shibuya Sta. (South Exit), and then get off at Kamimachi Bus Stop (2) The Tokyu Setagaya Line to Setagaya Sta. or Kamimachi Sta.
1/17 Kagura-hajime, at the main hall of Kanda Myojin Shrine, Chiyoda-ku. Dai-dai Kagura , Shinto dance with music of drums, flutes and other musical instruments is performed from 15:00. Access: The JR Chuo, Sobu Line or the Marunouchi Subway Line to Ochanomizu Sta. (M 20), and then walk 5 min.
1/18 Onza Hiho Daranie (Moja Okuri), Buddhist rites at Sensoji Temple, Taito-ku. Two devils with burning torches emerge from the darkness (at 17:00), run around in the compound of the temple, and then disappear into the darkness. It is believed that those who are showered by the sparks of the burning torches are assured of good health throughout the year. Access: The Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Sta. (G 19, A 18), and then walk 5 min.
1/21 Hatsu Daishi, first fair of the year at Nishi-Arai Daishi Temple, Adachi Ward, Tokyo. Many open-air stalls sell Daruma, sweets, clothes, etc. in the precincts of the temple and its neighborhood from 9:00-16:00. Access: The Tobu Isesaki Line to Nishi-Arai Sta., and take the Tobu Daishi Line to Daishi-mae Sta., and then walk 5 min.
1/21 Hatsu Daishi, first fair of the year at Kawasaki Daishi Temple, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Pref. Open- air stalls selling Daruma (Dharma dolls) are set up from 9:00. Access: The Keihin Kyuko Line to Keikyu Kawasaki Sta. From there, the Keihin Kyuko Daishi Line to Kawasaki Daishi Sta.
1/24-25 Usokae-Shinji, Bullfinch exchange ritual of Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Koto-ku. Bullfinches, which are called “Uso ” in Japanese, are regarded as symbols of good luck. People exchange old carved wooden bullfinches for new ones. Daily between 9:00-16:00 Kasai-Bayashi (Japanese festival music) and Sato-Kagura (Shinto dance with music) is performed at Kagura-den Hall. Access: JR Sobu Line to Kameido Sta., then walk 15 min.
1/25-31 Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival 2018, Tokyo Dome, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Even those not interested in quilting will be impressed with these works of art! 9:30-18:00 (last entry 30 minutes prior to closing). The festival opens at 11:00 on the first day, and closes at 17:30 on the final day. 2100 yen (1900 in advance). Access: A short walk from Suidobashi, Korakuen, and Kasuga Stations.
1/28 Daruma Ichi, fair for Dharma at Takahata Fudoson Temple, Hino, on the outskirts of Tokyo. Many stalls are set up from sunrise to sunset, selling Daruma dolls which attract many people seeking good luck in the year ahead. Chigo-Gyoretsu , a parade of children in fancy attire is scheduled in the precincts from 14:00. Access: Keio Line to Takahata Fudo Sta., and then walk 5 min.
1/28-3/25 Tsubaki Matsuri, Oshima Island, Tokyo. Camelia festival. Various species of camelia are in bloom during the festival period. Daily from 9:30-15:30 Oshima locals perform at Tsubaki Plaza. There is also a night festival (Yomatsuri) in the passenger waiting room in Motomachi Port. Access: 1) Yurikamome Monorail Line to Takeshiba Station, then walk to Takeshiba Pier. From there, take Tokai Kisen ferry boat (8 hours) or hydrofoil (1hr. 45min) to Oshima Island. 2) From Haneda Airport, take airplane (30 minutes).